June 19th, 2009
02:55 PM ET
5 years ago

Democrats fear Obama health plan 'on the rocks'

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Several senior Democratic advisers to the White House are urging President Obama to further step up his personal involvement in the health care debate, as administration allies privately warn that the president's push for a major reform bill is hitting major roadblocks at a critical juncture on Capitol Hill.

One of the Democratic advisers told CNN there is fear within the party that the president's signature issue is "on the rocks" because of dramatically high cost estimates for separate bills being drafted by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) and Max Baucus (D-Montana). The Congressional Budget Office's estimate for the Kennedy bill - that it will cost $1 trillion and yet leave millions of Americans without health insurance - has given Republicans strong political ammunition to charge reform may be too expensive at a time of massive federal deficits.

CNN Radio: Ed Henry reports on the status of the president's plan


"We're going to need the White House to step it up a little bit and get more engaged," said a second Democratic adviser, who acknowledged concerns that Republicans are gaining steam in the message battle. "We've got some time to sort this out, but decision time is just around the corner."

This second Democratic adviser said the CBO's $1.6 trillion estimate for the Baucus bill was particularly jarring to Democrats because it was "several hundred billion dollars more" than expected. Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, announced this week he's pushing back the official unveiling of his legislation until after July 4 - a delay that imperils White House hopes the Senate can finish work on the issue before leaving town for its August recess.

But senior White House officials contend that while there are legitimate concerns about the status of the legislation, the President is still confident the setbacks are a normal part of the legislative process and it will eventually get back on track.

"We're not hysterical," said one senior White House official. "We've seen this movie before: [the congressional process] looks like a total mess, nothing is getting done, and then something happens."

Amid the Democratic concerns about the need for the President to take on a more active role, the President is planning next Wednesday to appear in a primetime special broadcast on ABC News. The program entitled, "Questions for the President: Prescription for America" will be moderated by Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer and will feature questions from audience members in the East Room of the White House.

Jim Manley, a senior aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), told CNN that even though there are some ominous signs for Democrats right now, party officials are confident they're just bumps in the road.

"Be very careful to sort out the wheat from the chaff, the noise from the reality," said Manley. "It's not easy, but we can do it."

But in a sign Democrats may be nervous that they will not be able to reach 60 votes in the Senate for Obama's plan, Reid reminded reporters this week that in order to pass the health legislation he still reserves the right to use arcane budget rules known as "reconciliation" that require only a simple majority of 51 votes to pass legislation.


Filed under: Congress • Health care • President Obama
soundoff (199 Responses)
  1. susie

    Will Congress use the same Health care as the rest of us?

    June 19, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  2. RahmAxleRod SuperTroopers

    Lets be clear, its about time we took the Healthcare system and gave it back to the people who need it... not the RETIRES on Medicare... goodbye old people you had your time.. now its OBAMAS time...

    June 19, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  3. kingssman

    Well if nothing done, healthcare cost are going to skyrocket no matter what. Private health care is increasing every month with or without govt intervention. More and more are without healthcare and employers are constantly increasing their preimiums on employees. All this is happening w/o govt care.

    If govt care can do anything, hopefully it will help cut costs from employers.

    if anything, make govt healthcare an enlisted option. make a check box saying 'yes' to govt care and they can pull extra out of COBRA

    June 19, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  4. Boisepoet

    The Democratic lawmakers need to ratchet up their courage. They are the ones caving to an intellectually bankrupt political opposition whose only solutions are either status quo, or one that will only benefit the insurance companies that are part of the current problem.

    Democratic Senators and Representatives; The people are with you on this, show some courage and make some real reforms. Don't sell your office to the insurance industry like all the Republicans have, and like several of your own have (Baucus, Daschle).

    June 19, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  5. Eric in VA

    There is no way any of you lib morons can blame the GOP for this... Dems control the House, Senate, and White House. They don't need any GOP support support to do anything.

    June 19, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  6. NeverScared

    It has NOTHING to do with spending. NONE of them (R, D, I) give a crap about spending, (see the crippling results of a manufactured war spendfest???

    Politicians are beholden to their corporate masters. With the "healthcare" industry being one of the most increasingly profitable....it'll never change.

    June 19, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  7. The CBO is RIGHT!!

    Kill the plan. It's too expensive and won't cover all of the uninsured. A bad bill is a bad bill!

    June 19, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  8. RNC = DNC = politics as usual

    Hillary Clinton got stalled on her health care reform way back when she originated it. Obama slammed her for making enemies and not reaching across the aisle.

    Now that Obama is stalled on some of his initiatives and has made enemies and is not reaching across the aisle, what does he think about himself?

    Messiah meets Reality.

    June 19, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  9. Ed from the western slope of Colorado

    All I see here is "we can't afford it". I am sure these comments are from folks who already have a good health care system. Good for you all, I am happy for you. As long as we have a health care system based on profit, regular folks are going to get screwed. I believe that congress' health care perks should either be the basis for all health care or else they should lose that perk and be like the rest of the world. The health care system is broken and the spineless yokels in congress are too bought and paid for by BIG INSURANCE and BIG PHARM to ever do anything about it. The congress is all a bunch of self serving moronic idiots.

    June 19, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  10. Shawn

    No more excuses. The USA has the WORST healthcare system in the developed world. The World Health Organization ranks the US's healthcare system # 77th in affordability, accessibility and efficiency. Not very impressive for the Greatest Country in the World, is it?

    Tens of millions of Americans have no coverage at all. This is a disgrace. The insurance companies have made a "healthcare industry" out of ripping people off and dropping them when they get expensive diagnoses. It's too expensive. We pay more than anybody in the world and we get nothing in return.

    We deserve a public option. There wasn't reform when the economy was good, so that's just a cop-out and a lame excuse. Act now. Act for real and let Americans have the choices they deserve.

    June 19, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  11. donttreadonme

    Americans are waking up to realize that socializing Healthcare is not really a fix. The Republicans plan is just a better plan and the dems know it!

    The ability manage your own plan, not your companies plan, will allow you to pool together with more people and will help drive down costs for the self employed and unemployed a like.

    There will also be new regulations to protect the little guy from being dumped when they get sick.

    June 19, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  12. MJ

    One way to start lowering cost is to do away with all the advertising from the pharmacutical companies. This has to cost a small fortune that is passed on to consummers. Personally tired of hearing how many ways you could die from taking these drugs. Let our physicians decide what is right or wrong. That's what we pay them for.

    June 19, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  13. Chris in NC

    Fear is always the dominating factor in health care reform...fear of high cost, fear of diminished care, etc. etc. Conventional wisdom says that a government-sponsored program will be bloated, inefficient, expensive and corrupt...the private, for-profit system we have now is already exactly that – not to mention immoral – yet nobody seems to have a problem with it?

    Why don't we drop all the "socialist" fear mongering and admit that most of our choices in health care are already dominated by a corrupt and greedy insurance industry...has the private sector really proven that it can do health care better than the government??? Gimme a break...

    June 19, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  14. Cowboy in West Texas

    I would like to see health care reform – first off I would like to see hospital and doctor's bills which don't give you a heart attack when you get them. Then I would like an explanation as to why the bill that came to me for a hospital stay and procedure was over $45,000 but the insurance company I have my insurance with settled for $13,500. Health care reform needs to start some place a lot closer to the care and farther away from Washington. If the governement is going to pay the going rate right now for everyone – no way we can afford it.

    June 19, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  15. munchmom

    Good–I am glad something is finally NOT going his way!! We can't get stuck into his socialist policies....quit while you are ahead Prez.

    June 19, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  16. T KS

    This is far to important to let the special interests in Washington pay for the outcome they want. Any Senator that votes against a health care system that views health care as a human right is clearly in the pocket of the insurance companies. When will we stop believing this garbage that the US has the best health care system? We pay far more for far less then the rest of the civilized world. We are the only one to use Insurance. Its a bogus pyramid scheme that has been bankrupting America and Americans for 40 years. It's time to WAKE UP AMERICA! Tell your Senator to stop accepting money from the special interests and vote based on your best interest and that of you neighbor. We can not let this fail.
    And please CNN and the other MSM outlets, start telling the truth about the healthcare system in this country. Your sister company Time magazine did an article on it and clearly showed how the rest of the civilized world has got it right. Why aren't we seeing more about it in this light? If it fails to pass, you are partly responsible for it.
    WE NEED TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN NOW!

    June 19, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  17. ArtNYC

    How can it possibly pass when we are spending trillions of dollars to put people on a govt run healthcare. we don't want no more debt. Find ways to reduce costs an everyone is onboard.

    June 19, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  18. SLM

    We can only hope they put this healthcare reform on ICE for a long time, until they can work out a plan that won't destroy the quality of care.

    June 19, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  19. Allen

    JAE

    You are a republican, therefore you regurgitate every g.o.d d.a.m.n.e.d thing that you hear from your party. You are a republican, therefore you are scared to death of anyone who isn't a good old fashioned hillbilly. You are a republican, therefore you go to church so that you can judge everyone else. You are a republican, therefore you believe in your party more than the ideals that this nation was founded upon.

    Go to hell and take your children with you for there is a chance that they may grow up to be just like you and I cannot afford that in my country.

    June 19, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  20. Joseph

    If the Obama provides a socialistic plan, which will be paid by higher tax and insurance premium or by taxing the benefits to average taxpayers, or by robbing Peters to pay for Pauls, then half of the current insured holders may simply to drop their employers' sponsored plans and switch it to the Obama plan. It is so simple because it is the way how it works in socialist countries around the world.

    June 19, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  21. Kevin Luby

    Get rid of the frivolous lawsuits and eliminate insurance companies from having ridiculous restrictions on what they will pay for. Many people have insurance that is so poor it is almost like having no insurance. Eliminate the fraud from medicare and other areas and you would be amazed how much more affordable it is to cover people. Of course the lawyer lobby would protest any tort reform at all. And nobody in Washington would certainly want to alienate any potential campaign contributors.

    June 19, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  22. Jim

    "Our health care system is great, it's insanity to think that the government can make it better."

    You can say Mississippi is great too, Mike, but that dosen't make it so. Your head is buried in the sand, or somewhere worse.

    June 19, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  23. think please

    No one is against universal health care. But we have to be able to afford it and more importantly it has to work. For instance, if it passes, I'll lose mine immediately and have to go on it, which I don't want because mine is better. Someone needs to take the checkbook away from these idiots quickly and we need to slow down right now. They're multiplying the mistakes of the last adminstration and making too many of their own.

    June 19, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  24. Matt the Baker

    I'm a Dem but I didn't support this health care initiative. It's not that I don't agree that overhaul is needed, it's just too broad an issue. Listen, most of us don't even understand our health insurance. It's so convoluted that the biggest proponents cannot tie it into a nice little package for the public to analyze and rally behind. Big insurance doesn't even need to campaign to stop the proposed overhaul either – the overhaul itself is and will be DOA. This happened with Clinton. People said Obama's team is smarter and will come at it from another angle. There is no other angle – this thing is a huge albatross.

    Let's take some small steps. Let's push out some initiatives for prevention so that we all stay out of medical trouble. Let's push some initiatives that make medical billing and insurance coverage more transparent. Let's create a medical site that gives market values for common procedures, medications, etc. I can price auto's, houses, etc online but I have no idea if a simple IV drip should have cost me $1,238 or $56. Let's push to empower us, the medical CONSUMER, instead of insurance companies or medical providers.

    June 19, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  25. Phil in NE

    Good!!!! I don't want to lose my rights on choice of doctors or when to see them. Enough government control, too much as it is.

    June 19, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
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